Lesson 8: Sliding Into Home
Welcome to the eighth – and final – installment in the 8 essential steps to clawhammer banjo course. In this lesson, we’ll cover the last of what I consider the fundamental fretting hand techniques….the slide.
The slide is a common device used by clawhammer banjoists. As you’ll discover, it’s another great tool for adding another layer of interest to your music, and they’re not too difficult to learn!
Slides are also sound great on fretless banjos – and since fretless banjos have played a big part in the clawhammer tradition, it’s no suprise that slides do too.
With the slide, as with the hammer on and pull off, you’re once again using your fretting hand to produce a new note.
In the case of the slide, as with those other two, you’re changing a note that was struck by your picking hand to a new note; however, in this case, you’re also sounding all the notes in between on your way there.
In my opinion, the slide allows you to better mimic what we oftentimes do with our voice when we move from one note to the next. We don’t typically move discreetly, but rather we tend to “slide” up from the first note to the second. I’ll cover this again in a bit.
So, to execute the slide, your start with the fretting finger on the starting note, then strike the string with your picking finger, then, while still holding the string down with your fretting finger, move to the new note.
Try doing this first on the 3rd string. Start by fretting it with your middle finger at the 2nd fret. Then strike the middle string with your middle finger, and after you’ve struck it, slide your fretting finger from the 2nd fret to the 4th fret (holding the string down with your fretting finger the entire time). This slide on the 3rd string from the 2nd to 4th fret is probably by far the one used most in clawhammer banjo.
After getting comfortable with that slide, trying sliding on the 4th string from the 4th to the 5th fret, again fretting with your middle finger. L
Lastly, try sliding on the 2nd string from the 2nd fret to the 3rd fret.
Once you’ve gotten a little comfortable with these, let’s try them in an exercise.
In this first exercise, we’re again going to use a little picking pattern to work on these slides we just reviewed. You’ll note here in the tab that slides are represented in the tab with a line joining the note you start the slide on with the note you end on, with the letters “Sl” over it.
The tuning for this exercise is standard G (gDGBD).
Once again, I’d encourage you to practice these exercises along with the metronome, and you can use the metronome playlist I’ve created if needed. Start out at the slowest setting and only move to faster speeds once you can comfortably play along with the one you’re on.
And though the exercise itself is just eight measures long, I’d encourage you to keep looping through it over and over as you practice it (I’d encourage doing this with all of the exercises).
Now we’re gonna work on slides in the context of a tune, specifically the A part of the song “Bile Dem Cabbage Down”. Here, you’ll note that the slide on the 3rd string helps us to better capture how we’d sing this song with our voice.
Au Revoir…or not!
And, just like that, we’ve reach the end of our 8th and final lesson. If you’ve made through all the lessons this far, congratulations! Thanks to all your hard work, you now possess all the fundamental technical building blocks needed to make a lifetime of great music.
But this isn’t quite goodbye, as I’ll be coming back with a few follow up installments where we’ll work on learning some tunes, and in doing so demonstrate how these fundamental technical elements you’ve just learned can be combined in virtually infinite number of ways to create all manner of wonderful music.